Top EU negotiator defends forced-labour provisions amid criticism of investment deal with China



Finbarr Bermingham | South China Morning Post

The chief negotiator of the European Union’s new investment deal with China has defended the forced-labour provisions, saying that Beijing’s obligations to ratify key international standards “can be measured over time”.

Speaking at a webinar on Wednesday, Maria Martin-Prat said Brussels would continue to push “autonomous measures on forced labour”, implying that it would be unreasonable to expect an investment treaty to be a silver bullet for such social issues.

“Even though we think it’s very important to engage, for instance, in the ratification of the ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions, and to work with other countries to make sure that practices such as forced labour are eradicated, we don’t believe the EU can achieve that goal on that basis only … what partners may be willing to commit themselves to do under a treaty. And we are looking into, as well, autonomous measures to fight against forced labour,” she said.

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